The sweet shop owners in West Bengal are not happy with the 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) being levied on sweets and have decided to go on a strike on August 21 following the footsteps of the textile industry, according to a report by The Indian Express. These owners also revealed that they have been charging old rates from customers even though the new regime was implemented more than a month ago. Moreover, they claimed that as the sweet industry is a part of the unorganised sector, most shops don’t have the infrastructure to deal with the complexity of GST.
While talking to The Indian Express, general secretary of Pachim Banga Mishtanna Vyavsaye Samiti, a state body of sweet traders, Robin Pal said if there is no action from the government then the strike can be extended. “Around 20 years ago, Chief Minister Jyoti Basu had lifted sales tax on sweets. About eight years ago, sweets were brought under ambit of VAT. After we protested, the government lifted VAT too. At present, there is no tax on sweets,” he said.
“The government has not imposed GST on milk products like paneer. But as soon as you use paneer to make sweets, we have to pay GST. This is a problem because most sweets in Bengal are made of chhana. We will be on strike on August 21 and for the next two days, we will wait for the government’s stand. If there is no action from the government’s side, we will go on a three-day strike from August 24, which may also be a hunger strike,” he added.
As per the report, over 7,000 shops in Kolkata and about a lakh across Bengal will participate in the strike. Shops selling snacks like kachori and samosas might join the protest as well. “We have learnt that the government has imposed 12 per cent GST on such items. If we pay GST, what will we be left with?” asked Rajiv Desai, a roadside snacks and sweet seller.